By Amanda Yeo
Just like Dyson and NASA before it, Fitbit has now designed a ventilator in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Unveiled on Wednesday, the Fitbit Flow is an “easy-to-use, and low-cost” emergency ventilator designed in consultation with healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients. Based on manual resuscitator bags used by paramedics, the ventilator features various sensors to help monitor patients, and allows the pressure and volume of oxygen delivery to be controlled. The Fitbit Flow also has a clear window through which healthcare workers can view the automated resuscitator bag being pumped.
It isn’t a long-term solution — conventional ventilators are still sorely needed. Instead, the Fitbit Flow is intended to act as a temporary stopgap keeping patients alive until they can be put on a standard machine.
“We know from some conversations that physicians are already trying to work out the ethics in deciding who gets the ventilator and who doesn’t, due to shortage of supply,” said Dr. Tony Faranesh, a Fitbit research scientist who helped develop the ventilator. “The goal here is to support life in the event that one’s not available until one might become available.”
The FDA has already authorised the Fitbit Flow for emergency use during the pandemic where conventional ventilators aren’t available.
Fitbit has stated it intends to use its existing infrastructure to quickly manufacture “large volumes” of these devices. The company has no plans to continue manufacturing ventilators after the current health crisis passes though — this is only a temporary shift in focus.
“COVID-19 has challenged all of us to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity, and use everything at our disposal to more rapidly develop products that support patients and the healthcare systems caring for them,” said Fitbit CEO James Park.
“We saw an opportunity to rally our expertise in advanced sensor development, manufacturing, and our global supply chain to address the critical and ongoing need for emergency ventilators and help make a difference in the fight against this global virus.”
Though governments around the world are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions, the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing. As of Wednesday, the World Health Organisation reports approximately 6.3 million confirmed cases globally, including 380,000 deaths. The U.S. continues to account for the largest proportion of these numbers, with around 1.8 million cases and 105,000 deaths, and thousands more continue to be diagnosed daily.